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Maybe MLS payrolls aren't quite as far behind Liga MX's as we figured

Liga MX's top earners were recently revealed. We compare those figures to MLS, and find some surprising results.

Suazo is number one (in salary in Mexico).
Suazo is number one (in salary in Mexico).
George Frey

Last week, an interesting report was released, detailing the top 10 earners in Liga MX. The names you would probably expect occupied the list, with Monterrey's Humberto Suazo leading the way, and including his teammate Aldo de Nigris, Olympic gold medal-winning goalkeeper Jesus Corona, and Club America's Christian Benitez. Even Chivas had a member on the list, Marco Fabian, who probably gets a raise every time he asks why he hasn't been transferred to Europe yet.

What was striking to me was how low the salaries were in relative terms. Here's a replication of the list:

Player Team Salary
Humberto Suazo Monterrey $3 million
Christian Benitez America $2.7 million
Lucas Lobos Tigres $2.2 million
Oswaldo Sanchez Santos Laguna $2 million
Christian Gimenez Cruz Azul $1.8 million
Sinha Toluca $1.7 million
Jesus Corona Cruz Azul $1.6 million
Aldo de Nigris Monterrey $1.5 million
Aquivaldo Mosquera America $1.5 million
Marco Fabian Chivas $1.5 million

Those salaries are nothing to sneeze at, but considering all we hear about the money flush in Mexican soccer, these figures are at least somewhat surprising.

In contrast, here's the list of top earners from MLS in 2012 (salary figures for 2013 are not yet available):

Player Team Base Salary
Thierry Henry New York Red Bulls $5 million
Rafa Marquez* New York Red Bulls $4.6 million
David Beckham* LA Galaxy $3 million
Robbie Keane LA Galaxy $2.9 million
Landon Donovan LA Galaxy $2.4 million
Torsten Frings* Toronto FC $2 million
Julian de Guzman* Toronto FC/FC Dallas $1.9 million
Kris Boyd* Portland Timbers $1.2 million
Danny Koevermans Toronto FC $1.1 million
Dwayne De Rosario D.C. United $617,000

*No longer playing in MLS

Obviously, with half the list out of the league just a year later, there will be considerable movement on this season's version of the MLS Top 10. Still, the average among the Liga MX list was $1.95 million, while MLS' average was $2.4717 million. So the upper end of MLS' salary structure is considerably higher than Liga MX.

Now, there is a humongous caveat to looking at the 1 percent of each league. While some of the top MLS earners may make more than their Liga MX counterparts, the overall salary disparity is clearly in favor of Liga MX. As Kyle McCarthy argued yesterday on, the list may make MLS seem like it is in fact outspending Liga MX, but with a substantial portion of MLS players making less than $50,000, and the majority of the players making less than $100,000, the 99 percent of the league is not getting in on the spoils. We all know that salaries are kept low in order to keep spending in check, for the sake of the sustainability of the league. And with Herculez Gomez laughing at discussing* the clear salary disparity between the two leagues without disclosing how much he makes playing in Mexico, the total team payrolls in Liga MX surely outstrip those in MLS by a factor of...well, who knows? Probably at least by two or three.

* On twitter, Gomez balked at my characterization of his "laughing" at the income disparity, and I have changed it so as not to misrepresent him.

Still, if MLS continues to suffer from the overall income disparity with Liga MX, the gap, at least at the top, has completely closed. Humberto Suazo enjoys a salary that most of us would leap at, but he's probably not buying micro giraffes and buying solid gold houses. Neither is Thierry Henry, although you never know...

What do you think? Leave a comment below!